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Not just bits of cloth, Jennifer Shennan

New Zealand’s Historic Samplers – Our Stitched Stories
Vivien Caughley
David Bateman, $50.00
ISBN 9781869538668

Vivien Caughley’s opening definition of a sampler is “an embroidered cloth which records a stitched pattern, often the alphabet and numerals, sometimes pictures, and stitch techniques … They often commemorate events personal and national.” Through the 160 following pages, we learn much from the intriguing strands of story that Caughley draws from her selection of “self-expression with needle and thread” found in national, regional and private collections throughout the country. We readily concur with her closing ascription of samplers, not as “just bits of cloth” but as “another way history can be studied and illustrated”.

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Posted in Art, Non-fiction and Review

The thinking man’s cartoonist, Dylan Horrocks

Brockie: A Memoir in Words, Cartoons and Sketches
Bob Brockie
New Zealand Cartoon Archive/Fraser Books, $39.50
ISBN 9780958232074

David Lange called Brockie “the thinking man’s cartoonist”. Which is pretty nice of Lange, considering that Brockie had drawn him on various occasions being pissed on by a giant bulldog, with his head cut off, naked and (very frequently) in drag. Mind you, Lange was far from alone. Robert Muldoon, Jim Bolger, Colin Meads, Kim Dotcom and even Keith Holyoake have all, at various times, been stripped and humiliated by Brockie’s pen, which has been scratching away at public reputations for more than 50 years.

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Posted in Art, History, Memoir, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review

The courage of her convictions, Rebecca Rice

Grace Joel: An Impressionist Portrait
Joel L Schiff
Otago University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781877578861

Miss Grace Joel displays the courage of her convictions. The work is obviously not a pot-boiler; obviously not the product of a lady “who does a little painting now and again”. The artist is working on right lines leading to success. Evening Post, 12 October 1907.

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No country for old men, Megan Dunn 

Grahame Sydney Paintings 1974-2014
Grahame Sydney (essay by Vincent O’Sullivan)
Craig Potton, $100.00,
ISBN 9781927213254

Myself, Looking Back is Grahame Sydney’s extensive memoir of his childhood and formative artistic years up until his sell-out solo exhibition in 1975. Early on in this detailed and reflective piece, Sydney’s boyhood self asks: “Weren’t all lives like ours?” This question is rhetorical and it hits the right elegiac note, but ultimately the answer is no.

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Those are pearls that were his eyes, Lindsay Missen

Fingers: Jewellery for Aotearoa New Zealand: 40 Years of Fingers Jewellery Gallery
Damian Skinner and Finn McCahon-Jones
David Bateman, $60.00,
ISBN 9781869538620

Place and Adornment: A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand
Damian Skinner and Kevin Murray
David Bateman, $70.00,
ISBN 9781869538200

If you have an interest in New Zealand craft jewellery, it’s very likely you’ll enjoy Fingers: Jewellery for Aotearoa New Zealand: 40 Years of Fingers Jewellery Gallery. The layout is a scrapbookish mélange of photos of work, reproductions of associated print design, and numerous group shots of the principal craftspeople involved. If you’re old enough to recall the four decades covered, here is a treasure trove of illustrative material to be searched through and remembered.

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Beyond beige, John Newton

A Rainbow Reader
Tessa Laird
Clouds, $25.00, ISBN 9780987659378

Plato, I learned recently from the wonderful Maggie Nelson (Bluets, 2009), wanted to banish not just the poets from his republic but also the painters. They were “mixers and grinders of multi-coloured drugs”; colour itself was a menace, a kind of narcotic. But then as David Batchelor argues in Chromophobia (2000), nothing much has changed in western culture in the intervening centuries. The closer you come to the domain of elite taste (the styliest bar, the most exclusive boutique) the more you are reminded that colour is not cool. Bright tones are for pimps and foreigners, for children, for primitives, for hippies and mad people. Who paints their living room other than off-white? Who goes to art school dressed in anything but black?

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The ocean within, David Eggleton

Art in Oceania: A New History Peter Brunt, Nicholas Thomas, Sean Mallon, Lissant Bolton, Deidre Brown, Damian Skinner and Susanne Küchler. Peter Brunt and Nicholas Thomas (eds), assisted by Stella Ramage Thames & Hudson, $130.00, ISBN 9780500239018 Art in Oceania:

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The museum as a book, Tim Walker

Take These With You When You Leave: Treasures of the Archive
Georgina White
MTG Hawke’s Bay
ISBN 9780992259600

Architecture of the Heart
Lucy Hammonds and Douglas Lloyd Jenkins
MTG Hawke’s Bay
ISBN 9780992259624

Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa: The Identity of the Hapu of Hawke’s Bay
Migoto Eria
MTG Hawke’s Bay, $49.00,
ISBN 9780992259617

The challenges of in-house museum publishing are numerous. Museums are not typically well-resourced, and the decision to focus time and (usually ratepayer) funding on publications inevitably comes at the expense of the same resources being directed to other museum projects or programmes. At the same time, the number of individual visitors to museums is generally small, and the percentage who will buy a book smaller still – meaning the economics of ultra-niche publishing and its efficacy in reaching wider audiences are uncertain at best. As a former art gallery curator and museum director, I was keen to understand what fresh approaches MTG Hawke’s Bay (formerly the Hawke’s Bay Art Gallery and Museum) would bring to this vexing area, under the directorship of published author Douglas Lloyd Jenkins.

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Posted in Art, History, Māori, Non-fiction and Review

An act of restoration, Stella Ramage

Moments in Time: Ralph Miller – Artist
Brian Miller
Lifelogs Ltd
ISBN 9780992245702

Ralph Miller occupies a small, forgotten corner of our art history. A sign-writer and designer by trade, Miller nurtured a private artistic career that was sadly cut short by his sudden death in 1956, at the age of 37. Brian Miller, the author of this book and the artist’s son, aims to illuminate that corner.

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Behind the footlights, Amanda Lafoy Brown

The Royal New Zealand Ballet at 60 Jennifer Shennan and Anne Rowse (eds) Victoria University Press, $60.00, ISBN 9780864738912 My parents first took me to see the New Zealand Ballet at the Opera House in Wellington in the late 1970s.

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